'My health is fine': Injured priest speaks out following hospital discharge
Published Friday, March 22, 2019 9:39AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, March 23, 2019 3:30PM EDT
The priest who was stabbed during Friday morning mass at Saint Joseph’s Oratory has been released from hospital.
Fr. Claude Grou told CTV Montreal he was looking forward to returning to work, adding that he is not afraid even after a man with a large knife walked into the Oratory and attacked him.
"My health is fine. I’ll take a little rest and I will be back to work when my rest is taken. And the Oratory will remain a place where people can be welcomed. A place of prayers, and a place of calm, and a place of peace -- even if there are some moments like that,” he said while being wheeled out of the Montreal General Hospital Friday evening.
The mass was being recorded for Sel+Lumiere TV, which streams the religious ceremony daily, when the attack occurred.
The video showed that at 8:40 a.m. a man wearing a dark winter coat and a light-coloured baseball cap pulled out a large knife as he walked in front of the altar, then ran up the steps toward the priest.
Grou tried to run away as the attacker knocked over a candle, but the man quickly caught up, pushed the priest to the ground, and stabbed him once.
The man then dropped his knife, which had broken, and worshippers ran forward as he stood up. Three men grabbed the assailant by the arms while others went to the aid of the injured priest.
Security agents at the church then detained the man and held him until police officers arrived. Those officers arrested the suspect and brought him to a police station for questioning.
Police have yet to disclose the man's identity or any possible motive for his attack, saying only that he is 26 years old and is known to police. They say he will appear in court on Saturday. Charges have yet to be determined, but could range from assault with a weapon to attempted murder.
Grou told CTV Montreal that he did not know the assailant.
There is nothing to suggest the attack was linked to any political, religious or extremist group, said Montreal police spokesperson Caroline Chevrefils.
"Today's event is an isolated act committed by one individual," the police wrote on their Twitter account Friday afternoon.
Attack ended within seconds
Adele Plamondon was in the Oratory for mass and noticed the man sitting in the back row during mass before he got up and began walking around.
She initially thought he was heading to the front of the room to kneel and pray but screamed when she saw him pull out the knife.
"I ran out of the church screaming to alert the security and Father Grou at the same time ran out the stairs to come with me in the sacristy but he didn't get there," said Plamondon.
"I saw the assailant on the floor after and he was peaceful, he was okay. There were two men over him and that's it."
Paramedics treated Grou at the scene and brought him to Montreal General Hospital to be treated for slash wounds to his belly.
“A 77-year-old male patient with stab wounds was brought to the Emergency Department of the Montreal General Hospital at 9:21 a.m. this morning. He is under observation and in stable condition without threat to his life,” the MUHC said in a statement.
Plamondon talked to Grou before he left the church, and told him "Saint Joseph protected you."
Grou said he was thankful to all those who rushed to his aid and those who supported him.
“I want to say a great word of thanks for all the people who have expressed their concerns for me in the last few hours, and the people who have expressed their prayers for me also," he said upon his release.
Earlier, the Oratory issued a statement expressing their support.
"Everybody working here at the Oratory and most of our pilgrims are shocked and very, very sad. As we speak there is mass going on in the Basilica of the Oratory and I'm sure everyone is praying for him," said Oratory spokesperson Celine Barbeau.
Barbeau could not say anything about the attacker or his possible motives.
"Maybe is it someone that was sick, who knows what it happened? I do not think it was directed directly to the man, but who can say?"
Montreal Archbishop Christian Lepine offered his support to Grou and those affected by the crime.
"Faced with this human drama, my thoughts are also with those who were present at mass, with the faithful from here and abroad, and all of society, because we are all affected," he said in a statement.
"We are all shocked by this act of violence that has taken place in our city, in a space dedicated to peace."
Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau swiftly condemned the attack.
2007 threat ended peacefully
Twelve years ago, a priest at the Oratory was threatened in an incident that ended peacefully.
On Oct. 30, 2007, a man armed with a handgun walked into the Oratory and threatened to kill himself in the church.
Fr. Charles Corso talked to the man, calming him down before police arrived and arrested him. That man was taken for psychiatric evaluation and nobody was ever hurt.
With files from CTV Montreal's Rob Lurie and Max Harrold; and The Canadian Press